Trigger warning: This post contains details of attempted suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
This week’s real mama has chosen to remain anonymous with her story. Today on R U OK? day I encourage you to ask your mummy friends if they are ok. Check in with them and find out how you can support each other. Often we struggle alone with our battles, like this mama did. Don’t do it alone, find support and get help.
The Hindu God Durga is a warrior goddess depicted as having ten arms. She manifests fearlessness and patience and never loses her sense of humour; always pictured with a constant meditative smile on her face. All is well. I’ve got this. How many mums feel like Durga?
We have two arms, two hands and ten fingers… but how many of us feel as though those two arms often extrapolate to ten. We can do it all. Super-mum. I’ve got this.
Two months ago I decided I wanted to contribute an article about being a working mum of two, trying to do it all; an insight to my life; the recipe for being able to do it all – have it all – and how to achieve the impossible… balance. My life. Or so I thought.
I am a mother of two, a loving wife (most of the time), a business owner with seven clients and a patient and understanding friend. These are some of my many caps. Entrenched in my spirit is the need to do it all; be all and everything to everyone. Is it enough to be just mum? How many mums ask themselves this question?
For me it wasn’t enough. When I first fell pregnant I looked at my life and decided I would keep it (mostly) in tact. Our child could fit neatly into the life we had built, the career I had built and the person I had spent my life becoming. So when my son was born I had a plan. After 6-months I would return to work and my life. Except after two months I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and after starting medication and seeing a psychologist, I was professionally advised to go back to work. Imagine that. My career and successes looked to define me. To make me happy. So I did what felt natural and returned to work just 3-months after my son was born. I felt better. I told myself ‘I’ve got this’.
I slotted back in to my old life, commending myself and having others express the same praise for being a mum and ‘being able to do it all’. Balance felt like it had been achieved. It helped that our son was a quiet, independent little angel, who made life impossibly easy. Two years later we decided to try again – this parenting thing wasn’t so tough. So we tried again and after one painful miscarriage we fell pregnant with our daughter. It was a tiresome pregnancy and work demands meant that I was pushed to the brink of my limits. I told myself ‘I’ve got this’.
Our daughter was born a beautiful little human that expanded our heart beyond what we thought possible. Yet after a few weeks I felt the dreaded pull of sadness that accompanied my last birth. This time I pushed it aside – it’s just one more child I told myself. You can slot back into your old life once more. And so it began. Durga. The fearless, patient, optimistic person I would pretend to be, with the meditative smile on my face.
Except it wasn’t real. As time passed, responsibilities built and the need to please everyone refused to let go. I was the mum constantly on her phone in the park, missing beautiful moments. I was not present. I was on a merry-go-round that wouldn’t stop turning. I could not get off. Okay. I’ve got this. Except I didn’t. I didn’t feel like I could communicate the feeling of being overwhelmed to anyone for fear of being judged as a failure, or more appropriately a fear of feeling as though I had failed. I was doing it all… but I wasn’t coping. So I pushed it aside and told myself ‘I’ve got this’. I was being pulled deeper into sadness and loneliness and I couldn’t see it until it was too late.
One day in a particularly busy period with work, my daughter fell ill with an ear infection. I spent the day with her waiting to be seen at the hospital; wanting to be there to comfort her but feeling guilty about not fulfilling the needs of my clients. This was normal for me, living life in what felt like a constant state of guilt. My daughter was seen and antibiotics prescribed and we returned home to what would turn out to be a particularly difficult evening of uncontrollable crying. My husband returned home to help after my son had gone to bed and when the crying stopped and she fell to sleep I felt like I could breath again. Except I couldn’t. I had a glass of wine to self medicate my feelings of anxiety… and then another… and then another. My husband went to bed and I decided to stay awake, waiting for the anxiety to pass. With each minute that succeeded the next I felt more scared, more alone, more hopeless. ‘I don’t have this’.
I was hurting, beyond anything I had ever felt. And in that moment I needed to stop the pain, to stop the merry-go-round, to just stop.
I overdosed on painkillers that night and called my mother to say goodbye. She called the ambulance and I was found on my kitchen floor, all humility lost. Why had I called my mum? A cry for help perhaps. I did not want to die.
I awoke in the hospital, husband by my side and realised what I had done. I did this. I had almost taken my own life. How did I get here? How had things gotten this bad? How could I choose to leave my own children?
After spending a short time in the psychiatric unit I retuned to my life. It was different, I was different, I was alive.
Some may read this and consider what I did to be a completely selfish act… and it was. I did not take into the account the people I loved in that moment and I did not think about the consequences of my actions. I just wanted the merry-go-round to stop. And it did. I got off and was able to look at my life properly for the first time.
Today I sit here and whilst I type I reflect on how far I have come in such a short period of time. Am I still Durga… yes, aren’t we all? But today I look at my children and see the responsibility I have to raise them to be the best people they can be. I see that this is my purpose. When my children grow older the one thing I want them to say about me is that I WAS PRESENT. Not just physically… mentally.
I still value my career and my roles as a wife, a friend, and a daughter; but my role as a mother outshines them all. I am a mother first. I’ve got this.
If this post brings up issues for you, or you just need someone to talk to, please call Lifeline on 131 114. You can also visit the Lifeline website here and the Beyond Blue website here.
So how are you today? R U OK?
Each Thursday I will bring you a real mama who is sharing her story. Whether you are a single mum, a grandmother, a mum of many or a mum to one, a mum-to-be, a step mum, a working mum or a stay at home mum, and you want to share your story about a particular motherhood journey or experience you have had then please get in touch at email@example.com.
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